Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holy Thursday Homily: Mending Walls and Vulnerability

Robert Frost in his poem “Mending Wall” wrote:

Before I built a wall, I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense,
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
"Master, are you going to wash my feet?"
Jesus answered and said to him,
"What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later."
Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet."
Jesus answered him,
"Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me." (John 13)

Simon Peter put up a wall when he said, “You will never wash my feet.” 
We all do this from time to time with God and each other.  Why?  What walls have you put up? 

Ultimately it is fear.  Fear that we will be rejected; fear that we are unlovable, fear that there is something ugly and shameful that could never be accepted. 

This fear however only leads to loneliness.  It only leads to more fences, more walls, and ultimately we find ourselves in Hell – separated from the love of God and the love of others. 

This ultimately is sin and its effects. 

The only way out of isolation and hell is through vulnerability.  The only way Peter can overcome his Pride is to be vulnerable to Jesus and allow Jesus to wash his feet. 

Many of you have allowed Jesus to wash your feet and taken down the wall over these past weeks.  Every one of you that humbled yourself and became vulnerable to one of us priests for confession allowed Jesus to wash your feet. 

I know myself it is a humbling experience to do this.  I also know how humbled I am as a priest when I see your face as you walk in the confessional… tense, worried, ashamed and vulnerable.  In those sacred moments as you revealed your sins, your pain, your sorrow, you did in reality allow the Lord to Wash you. 

That moment as God lays his hands on your head and speaks the words “I absolve you from your sins…” I witnessed before my eyes the release of all that worry, and fear, tension and shame.  Transformed in my presence and in the Presence of God you became a person filled with light, joy, and deep peace.  I could see it by the smile on your face that just radiated the good news of your forgiveness. 

We have a tendency like Peter to send out a signal that we will not allow Jesus to wash our feet, we have a tendency to build fences and wall ourselves in and wall God and others out. 

God is the “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down.”
This intimacy with God, which is eternal life, can only come when we take down our walls.  Intimacy with God only comes with being vulnerable. 

Remember what this experience was like.  What it was like to go to confession.  What it was like to have your feet washed.  What it was like to take down the wall.

And I ask you now… are there any more fences, are there any more walls?  Are there any areas of your life that you are walling off from God or others? 

In the words of the Great Poet, Robert Frost:
Before I built a fence I’d ask what am I walling in and what am I walling out. 


  1. Insightful. Worth some serious thought. Thanks.

  2. How do you help another to tear down their walls that keep us in from being in loving communion wiht one another? Do I need to take a blanket and pillow and lay outside their closed door until they have to open it for one reason or another?


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